Hundreds of Children Marry in India
Hundreds of underaged children married in India this week, in violation of laws requiring women be 18 and men 21 to marry.
Ignoring laws that ban child marriages, hundreds of children, some as young as seven years old, were married this week in a centuries-old custom across central and western India. Held to coincide with “Akkha Teej,” a summer festival believed to be auspicious for weddings, the marriages took place mostly in small towns and villages, where the laws have little effect and officials could do little more than record the names of the children being married.
Hundreds of children were married this week in Rajgarh, about 65 miles northwest of Bhopal, the capital of the central state of Madhya Pradesh. “The law to stop child marriage is not powerful enough,” Girija Mewada, a police constable posted at a Hindu temple in Rajgarh, said Wednesday, as she noted down the names of young couples who went to the temple for wedding blessings.
India law prohibits marriage for women younger than 18 and men under age 21, and parents who break the law %u2014 nearly all such marriages are arranged by parents %u2014 can be jailed for up to three months. But while the practice is dying out among urban, educated people, child marriages remain common in rural areas. There, it is seen as being beneficial for both families: The bride’s parents don’t have to support her for very long, and the groom’s family gains an unpaid servant, often treated as virtual slave, who usually brings a dowry.
The children remain in their parents’ houses, though, until the girl reaches puberty, after which she is brought to the groom’s home with great ceremony and the marriage is consummated.
While this sounds rather barbaric from our current perspective, it was not particularly uncommon for girls, especially in rural areas, to marry in their very early teens here in the United States a couple of generations ago. Postponing marriage into ones twenties and later only becomes the norm in societies where educating women is a priority.